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Transfer from Capstone Design: A Model to Facilitate Student Reflection

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1543.1 - 22.1543.20



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Paper Authors


Susannah Howe Smith College

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Susannah Howe is the Design Clinic Director in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, where she coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Her current research focuses on innovations in engineering design education, particularly at the capstone level. She is also involved with efforts to foster design learning in middle school students and to support entrepreneurship at primarily undergraduate institutions. Her background is in civil engineering with a focus on structural materials; she holds a B.S.E. degree from Princeton, and M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell.

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Mary A. Moriarty Smith College

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Mary A. Moriarty is an Assessment Researcher with the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College and serves as a private evaluation consultant. She has over 15 years of research, evaluation, and project management experience. Her evaluation work has spanned the areas of science and engineering instruction, robotics, technology application, and disability in higher education. Her background includes serving as Principal Investigator and Project Director for several DOE and NSF initiatives that focused on teaching and learning in higher education. She has a doctorate in Educational Policy, Research, and Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Apurva Errabelli

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Preparation for Practice: Transferable Skills and the Capstone Design ExperienceA common goal of capstone design courses is for students to synthesize their previous learningand apply their knowledge/skills to a complex design problem. A majority of capstone programscollaborate with industry or governmental organizations so that students tackle real-world designprojects for actual clients. As such, capstone design courses serve as a natural transition betweenstudents' undergraduate experience and their work and lives after college. In an ideal world,students would have a wide range of knowledge and skills from their capstone experience thatthey could transfer to their future careers. Yet, how much do we, as capstone design instructors,know about what our students transfer to life after graduation? How well can students articulatethese transferable skills and knowledge and appreciate how and why they will transfer? Andhow can we leverage feedback about transfer (or lack thereof) to improve capstone education?This paper reports on a pilot study designed to gather information about the “transfer out”abilities of capstone students. Students engaged in a set of activities intended to promote studentreflection about and documentation of the skills and knowledge they will transfer out of theircapstone experience. The paper describes the transfer activities (an initial individual writtenassignment and a team-based transfer map), and discusses their intent, implementation, andpossible variations. These activities were piloted with engineering students near the end of theirtwo-semester capstone design course. As a follow-up, six students, each representing a differentproject team, were interviewed about their experiences in the transfer activities and theirthoughts about transfer in general. The authors independently analyzed the transfer map, writtenassignments, and transcribed interviews to identify patterns and themes related to transfer.Preliminary results from the activity deliverables and interviews suggest that the transferactivities are useful in multiple ways, including facilitating an in-depth student reflection abouttransferable skills, serving as a close-out debrief for design project teams, and providingcapstone faculty with a detailed list of students' main takeaways from their capstone experiences.Plans to implement a modified version of these activities with capstone alumni are indevelopment, so as to identify what alumni actually transfer in to their employment aftergraduation, in comparison with what they perceive to transfer out.

Howe, S., & Moriarty, M. A., & Errabelli, A. (2011, June), Transfer from Capstone Design: A Model to Facilitate Student Reflection Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18472

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